Using Web Analytics for SEO - Part 1

By Dave McAnally, Product Specialist, Natural Search

Earlier this year, a previous post addressed using web analytics to optimize a paid search campaign. This drew some attention, as web analytics (WA) are one of those things that everyone knows they need, but not always sure exactly what actions are called for in a given set of data. I suppose some of this can be blamed on the usability of the dashes as it’s pretty easy for them to get unwieldy…which can lead to a full blown case of "analysis paralysis."

It’s time to share some direction on using WA to optimize natural search campaigns. The following reports can be found in almost every web analytics package and are fairly consistent, but depending on campaign goals, the insights and actions taken may vary:

1. Top Referring Keywords. Look at the long tail here; 25% of the queries performed are ones Google has never seen. The referring keywords to the site will show themes and patterns that are otherwise difficult to discern. More than once we've changed directions on a campaign because we're seeing volume around a type of query we've never seen. Many times the impetus for a decision like that is born here.

2. Referring Domains. This metric is essentially telling you who your biggest traffic drivers are. Search engines and sister sites tend to occupy the top of the list. However, we see some interesting things happening in the middle to end of this referral list. This is a great way to: A. Measure the effectiveness of a link building campaign (if we're seeing visitors from sites we built linking relationships with that we haven't before that's a good thing right?) and B. Find site themes and verticals that you may be able to generate buzz with (e.g. if we've got a particular blogger reviewing a product or service, this can inform the type of content on the page which could lead to greater link bait).

3. Click paths. This metric is more or less telling you how people navigate through the site. There are a lot of things to be determined here but a big one is the effectiveness of your site layout. If we're seeing a lot of people having to go through a few clicks and all ending up on the same page, it would indicate that there's an opportunity to engage people more effectively by improving that click path.

4. Paid vs. Natural. This is an excellent metric for identifying gaps. With paid search, we can quickly target the high volume terms and use ROI/conversion rate data to inform our decisions on where we want to compete organically. Likewise, the places where we're seeing a lot of activity in organic terms where we don't have paid coverage can help us expand a paid campaign.

5. Geographic referrals. The more targeted and niche the web becomes, the more important geography is (and no, the irony of this isn’t lost on me). Nevertheless, we've had instances where a flurry of offline promotions leads to a surge in a particular geo-specific market. Certainly the offline team will want to know that the radio blast in Philly led to an $X lift in revenue. We'll use geo data to develop new content, launch targeted landing pages, and in some cases, even modify service offerings to better target geo revenue sources.

Part II includes 5 additional WA optimization reports for SEO.


Copyright © 2008 Resolution Media, Inc. All rights reserved.